Don't you just love it when you put something together on a whim, and it works out the first time?
Star anise has a strong licorice flavor, so I was a little worried my poached pears would end up tasting like Good-n-Plenty. Fortunately, the other spices rose to the occasion and along with the Marsala infused the pears with a happy, spicy, delicious aroma.
Marsala Poached Pears
Firm, just ripe pears should be used. If overly ripe, the pears will cook up mushy. If Bosc pears are not available, Bartlett or Anjou can be substituted. You can core the pears if you wish, from the bottom, but it really is not necessary.
Make the spiced marsala syrup:
In a saucepan just large enough to fit all of the pears, place the Marsala wine, sugar, lemon juice, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil.
Poach the pears in the syrup:
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place the pears in the pan, standing upright. Cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes (if you want, baste with the liquid a couple of times during the cooking), until the pears can easily be pierced with a fork.
Very firm pears make need to cook for up to 20 minutes.
Once poached, remove the pears to a serving dish.
Boil down the syrup until it becomes a glaze:
Keeping the pan uncovered, let the Marsala syrup boil down for a few minutes until it is a thick syrup. (If it begins to caramelize, remove pan from the heat and add a little water to the pan to stop the cooking.)
Pour syrup over pears and serve